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Quail, silence, and autumn plant walk

Knowing the calls of the wild can help us quiet our minds, and

drop into the natural world around us. The first time I learned to hear Quail's call was in the Anza Borrego Desert, "chi-cah-go, chi-cah-go". Hearing their call is often how I find them when i'm out in their territory. This day was different.

I got off the main trail to walk along the rare, flowing creek in Sunol Regional Wilderness. I was feeling greatful for the quiet, cool water, and shade of the large oaks and alders. Then, I heard a loud rustling. The rustling of an animal, unafraid to be heard, in the bushes breaking branches, wrustling leaves. I stayed still, watched and listened.

Near the edge of the creek, on the other side, one-by-one ​they appeared between the branches. I climbed up into a strong Alder and watched them cross the creek, looking for

seeds in the underbrush. A sentinal with a large tuft jumped on top of a rock and watched me, without alarm. There were so many traveling in a large family.

My walk continued, silently along the creek. I heard the screech of the Hawk a few times, as well as a few raps of the wood pecker. In silence I was led to finding quite a few feathers, turkey, vulture, stellar's jay, and what I could now recognize as a small blue quail feather. As I walked along the creek a few tiny frogs jumped back in, and a few mosquitoes buzzed near my ears. I love following the creek and seeing 'who' wants to show up.

In the juiciest of places I found this delicious penny-royal tasting mint. As western herbalists we assign a cooling energetic to most of the mints. In the natural world they are found with their feet wet and in the shade. Traditionally used to break fevers, move gas, calm indigestion, relieve pain, and freshen breath. I put the leaves of this plant in my mouth, and they were quite spicy. I felt tingling and near burning sensation on my tongue and and mucus membranes. It felt invigorated. This alligns with traditional uses for mint to open the nasal passages and stimulate the mind.

The silence was broken as a team of dogs ran into the creek and chased away the quail. I began circling my way out from the creek and noticed the Autumnal World around me. Poison Oak (Toxicodendron spp.) is very common along the creek and I was keeping an eye out for it the whole time. It can be sneaky: changing or morphing the shapes of its leaves to look like the berry next to it, or the oak above it. Here is the coomparison of the Poison Oak (left) and Wild Rose (right) found right next to one another. The Poison Oak is in berry. Notice the Poison Oak behind the Rose (Rosa spp.), they have such similar coloring, tho the rose has thorns.

Wild Rose

The California Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica)was fruiting, some. A few years ago there were an overwhelming number of fruits and I was a ble to harvest and roast quite a few. The past 2 years have not been as fruitful and I haven't been able to harvest any nuts. We'll see if some of these tress produce more. Especially in these drier years, I don't want to take necessary food from the resident animals who count on them.

California buckeye (Aesculus californica) with whom I do identify quite a bit, if in name alone. These trees are often the first to flower in the spring. Long, tapering, chestnut flowers bloom and point toward the sky. It's leaves begin to change in late summer, fall, and then the chestnuts appear. Seemingly out of nowhere.

Sunol is one of my favorite regional parks. I enjoy stepping into this special world - wIth the Little Yosemite waterfall (in good times) the free range cows, the raptors, quail, turkey, frogs and other wild animals that call this place home.

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